Posted in Reviews

Review: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

les miserables cover

Title: Les Misérables

Author: Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.

Rating: 4/5

Victor Hugo must have been one of those authors who got paid by the word because this book is much longer than it needed to be. Sometimes that was fine, this is so well written I don’t care if it goes on forever, other times were more like oh my god this better have a point. Spoiler: it usually doesn’t.
I liked the main story. I even liked some parts that were completely irrelevant to the plot, parts that Hugo wrote in his quest to make the book as long as possible. He goes off topic as soon as the book starts, talking about a random bishop’s life for more than a hundred pages. I’m glad I didn’t have to read this book in high school – I would have absolutely hated it.
My favorite part was the revolution, my least favorite was the oh-so-cheesy romance between Marius and Cosette. I could have done without the description of the Paris sewers, too.
I read the Croatian translation of the first half of this book and the English translation of the second half. I hope that someday I’ll read it in French.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

  1. I have so little patience for verbosity and floweriness in literature. I like prose that is as tightly written as possible, and greatly admire books where every single thing ties in by the end. (Which is why I’ve never liked Dickens as much as I guiltily feel I should). And yet, unexpectedly, Les Miserables is my favourite book. Although, yes, I agree with you about the Paris sewers! And Marius’s and Cosette’s romance was a little sickening at times. The revolution definitely held my interest the most.

    I have read several different English translations over the years, and they have all differed significantly enough on certain details that I’m tempted to just learn French. Perhaps someday. Anyway, great review!

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  2. I enjoyed Dickens much more when I was younger, now I have to be in a very specific mood to have the patience for his books.
    I try to read English books in English these days because translations to Croatian can’t really be trusted. I’m learning French right now but it’s probably gonna take me a decade to get to the point where I can read Les Miserables in French.

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  3. That’s a good point about getting paid to write the book… I never even thought about that but it seems so obvious now. I haven’t read the book, but hopefully I’ll get around to it at some point. I think it’s because I’m so familiar with the story from the movies that I’d rather read things that I haven’t heard about. I just finished reading For the Term of His Natural Life, and I think the author drew a lot of inspiration from Les Miserables. It’s about an innocent man convicted of murder and shipped to the penal settlement in Australia. If you enjoyed Les Mis you might like it 🙂

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  4. Thank you for the rec 🙂
    I know what you mean by wanting to read something that’s completely new to you, and this book isn’t exactly a quick read anyways. It’s worth reading, though, and I hope you enjoy it when you get around to it 😀

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  5. Hahaha oh I loved the length, even if he took his time to explain the galleys and slang (!! but like seriously maybe he could have published some own book for these little things). I think it’s what makes him a great storyteller, he wanted to be accurate and he wanted reader to understand. And I don’t think anyone has apologized to me before about not being able to describe Paris accurately 😀

    I didn’t like the whole romance between Marius and Cosette either. It was just so annoying. In a way it made me happy that hey finally there’s an author who gives us a happy couple and sort of a happy ending (unlike so many classics) but still. Maybe a little drama would have made it better.

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  6. He really took his time with explaining 😀
    It was nice that at least some characters got a happy ending, maybe he tought there was enough drama with everyone else so Marius and Cosette are there to make the ending more positive.

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